Low Voter Turnout at Raymond Town Deliberative, CIP Bond Reduced
By Penny Williams 2-5-16

All of the 2016 Town Warrant Articles were forwarded to the ballot unchanged from the Jan. 30 Town Deliberative Session with the exception of Article 8, a bond article for Capital Improvement Program Vehicles and Equipment Purchase.

The bond article was amended at the Saturday Deliberative Session by Selectwoman Colleen West-Coates. Her amendment reduced the $841,526 amount of the bond for the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) vehicle and equipment purchases by $168,000, for a new total of $673,526.

West-Coates said new information discovered by the CIP Committee allowed the reduction. That committee had found the CIP to be chronically underfunded, and reached the conclusion that CIP funding needs outstrip the ability of the taxpayers to cover them. That puts the Town of Raymond in an equipment and vehicle funding crisis due to chronic underfunding, she said.

Should the voters fail to approve Article 8, she said the townspeople will be faced with reductions in services due to truck and equipment failures, especially in the Public Works area. The money in the CIP for highway vehicle replacement stands currently at $30,872, and the bond article proposes a one-time fix.

The amended Article 8 was approved almost unanimously by the fewer than three dozen townspeople in attendance, and generated little discussion. State Rep. Carolyn Matthews, R-Raymond said this is the first time a "fix" has been provided that would put the Town on track for recovery. Matthews is chairman of the Raymond Planning Board and that board’s representative to the CIP.

Should Article 8 fail in March, the State’s “No means No” rule would come into play, and the Town Attorney said the Highway Department would be unable to replace a truck or piece of equipment, should it break down.

The Budget Committee and the Board of Selectmen recommended West-Coates’ amendment. The estimated 2016 tax impact of the Article is $0.02, with the 2016 appropriation covering bond issuance and legal counsel costs. The estimated 2017 tax impact of the amended article would be $0.18 per thousand for the appropriation to cover the first year principal and interest costs of the bond.

The selectmen asked for and were awarded a restriction on reconsideration of the article.

Article 9, the Town's Operating Budget of $8,232,194, of which $7,428,429 is the Town Operating Budget and $803,764 is the Water Department Operating Budget, also came under discussion.

If the Operating Budget fails, the Town would raise $8,033,433 to fund the Default Budget.

Nick Longo, after going through a long list of questions regarding the operating budget line item amounts, proposed an amendment that would have reduced the Operating Budget bottom line to $7,373,650, which, when the Water Department operating budget was added, came to $8,177,414.

Matthews spoke against Longo’s proposed amendment, saying the budget presented had been transparently prepared and was a barebones figure.  Two votes were in favor of the amendment; the majority of the residents in attendance voted no. Longo left, shaking his head over perceived taxpayer indifference.

Article 21, Charges for Professional Banking or Brokerage Assistance for Capital Reserve Funds, drew the most attention. The discussion often wandered off topic to include Trust Fund money.

The Trustees of the Trust Funds are asking for authority to invest Capital Reserve Funds and pay service fees accompanying any such investment. Tina Thomas asked that the funds be placed in a New Hampshire bank instead of a Massachusetts bank.

The discussion revealed considerable misunderstanding about what the Trustees of the Trust Fund can and can't do and how Trust Fund money and Capital Reserve Fund money is treated.

No changes were offered to the article but the discussion emphasized the lack of understanding among taxpayers about how Capital Reserve money is handled as opposed to Trust Fund money.

Article 7, concerning the design and construction of a replacement well for the Town's Well 1 and the design and construction of a new Well 4, drew only a few questions. It was pointed out that without addressing the well issues, business and commercial endeavors would be stalled or turned away. There is no tax implication, as the Town’s water users pay the bill. The bond will be provided by the New Hampshire Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

When Article 16 was reached, it was explained that the $28,000 to be placed into the Capital Reserve Fund for Water is needed to clean and paint the water towers. There was a brief discussion but no objections.

Article 17 drew some attention because of the culvert replacement needed for Onway Lake Road. The state had built the present culvert and when it completed the work in the 1980s, it turned it over to the town, which now holds responsibility for the replacement. The weight limit has been reduced to 6 tons, which does not allow for first responders from the Fire Department or heavy commercial trucks to use the road.

There is no tax implication for this article because $225,122 comes from the Highway Block Grant and $405,000 comes from the Overlay Special Revenue Fund.

Article 18 for Road Construction Projects asks for voters to raise and appropriate $149,000 for road construction projects. It was pointed out that the town has many roads that need attention and the $149,000 has been the standard amount requested over past years, although the road repair program is falling behind.

Overall, the majority of the articles were forwarded to the ballot without more than a cursory explanation. The estimated increase in property tax over the 2015 Municipal Tax Rate based on a $200,000 house is $84.22.

The Deliberative Session, held at the Raymond High School cafeteria, ended just after 2 p.m. Selectman Jack Barnes said the taxpayer turnout of about 30 was the smallest he had seen since the town adopted the SB2 format.


To watch the town deliberative session on RCTV
click on Raymond Town Deliberative Session










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